In This Chapter

Wilson Harris

Understanding the Language of the Imagination

Authored by: Mark McWatt

The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature

Print publication date:  June  2011
Online publication date:  June  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415485777
eBook ISBN: 9780203830352
Adobe ISBN: 9781136821745


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In his twenty-five works of fiction, Wilson Harris has maintained a surprising consistency and integrity of vision, language and purpose. Although the settings, subjects and tone of his novels have varied widely over the years, his style – and especially his use of language – has always been immediately identifiable as his own peculiar stamp of originality. This entry looks at a few examples of writing, taken from a range of Harris’s novels over the years, which exemplify what I (and others) have called Harris’s ‘language of the imagination’. It is a language which is really the embodiment of a philosophical position – as his own theoretical writings make clear – that has to do with a deep conviction about the need for, and the possibilities of, genuine freedom that spring from the act of reading and writing the world. Such reading and writing, Harris indicates, might be better conducted from the margins, because

the complacencies of centralized, ruling powers – where language tends sometimes to become a tool for hypocrisies and false clarities – begin to wear thin at the deep margins of being within a multi-levelled quest for the natures of value and spirit.

(Gilkes 1989: 30)

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